Log Homes Illustrated - September 2004
Everyone's idea of perfection is different. When Jack and Judy McCarthy announced that they planned to retire to a remote lake in northern Minnesota, many of their best friends and closest relatives questioned why they would ever want to do such a thing. The move would put them more than four hours away, not an easy distance even for those willing to make the trek.
But Jack and Judy's idea of the perfect place to retire included all of the things that they enjoyed most: hearing the distant call of a loon, soaking their feet in the chilly waters of a placid glacier lake, picking basketfuls of wild berries, watching the trees change from pale gold to crimson each fall and fishing to their hearts' content. All of these things could be done with total disregard for schedules, appointments and meetings - all of which the couple had been slaves to in the past.
The McCarthys reassured everyone that, even though they were moving, they would stay in touch. "Yes, it might take a couple more hours to see you," Judy wrote her friends, "but that's not a problem with the good roads and highways between us. Come and visit us, and you'll understand our new state of mind."
The couple's new outlook actually began shortly after Jack's brother and two of Judy's closest friends unexpectedly passed away within a short time of each other. All three were only in their 50s. The losses showed the McCarthy's that there was no time like the present to do something they always wanted to do. "There are no guarantees in life," Judy says. "So we decided to get the house built, live in it and enjoy it as much as we could."
They found their property totally by chance. Judy had grown up in northern Minnesota and, as a young girl, spent her summers on Lake Vermilion, which is about 40 miles south of the Canadian border. The 26-mile-long glacier lake is dotted with nearly 365 islands. One day, about 15 years ago, while the couple happened to be staying at a resort in the region, Judy drove her husband over to see the lake to show him her old haunts and scout out properties for a retirement home that they hoped to build someday. When Jack, an avid fisherman, saw the lake and its rocky shoreline overgrown with birch, aspen and evergreen trees, he thought it was as perfect as Judy described.
Judy wondered whether any old friends of her parents might still live in the area. When they turned down a dead-end road, she recognized the name on the mailbox, "I said let's go down there and see if it is their place," Judy says, "but nobody was home." Judy left a note with the phone number of their hotel. Later that evening, they received a call from the people inviting them for coffee. Jack and Judy gladly accepted. "They were so warm and kind," Judy says. "It was as if we had never been apart."
When the couple asked Jack and Judy what they were doing up so far north, them mentioned their retirement plans and that they were looking for available property along the lake. The next morning, the couple invited Jack and Judy to breakfast at their house. That's when the unexpected happened. The couple offered to sell them half of their shoreline property, which totaled 6 acres. Jack and Judy couldn't believe the offer. "They weren't looking to sell. But they always thought that they might split it off someday." Jack says. "And with the family connection, they thought it was meant to be."
Needless to say, the couple accepted the gracious offer. Within the space of 24 hours, they found the lakeside property they were looking for, and it came with not just a wonderful view, but also terrific neighbors.
Since Jack and Judy were in no hurry to build their retirement home, they let the property sit idle for the next 15 years. "During the first three years, we put in a road, the electricity and a septic system." Judy says. "When we got all that in, we put a couple of trailers on the lot, and we'd come up for weekends and camp with the kids. We camped for the next 12 years."
When the couple got around to thinking about what type of home to build on the lot, a log home was the first thing to come to mind. "We did a lot of the things that other people do," Jack says. "Like getting the magazines and going to shows and model homes."
After talking to different log-home producers over a six year period, the couple decided to go with an insulated-log wall system rather than a full-log one. "One of the reasons we went with the insulated log system was to give us the flexibility on the inside, for instance, to mix and match materials such as Sheetrock with tongue and groove and logs on the walls." Judy says, "I love the wood, but I didn't want it in every single room."
Being in the heating and plumbing business, Jack also liked the high R-values of the insulated log walls. "Twenty-five below with some wind is not unusual up here," Jack says. "So I wanted the high R values in the walls. And with the way I designed the radiant in-floor heating system, with an inch and a half of lightweight concrete on each of the home's there floors, it is about 60 percent more efficient than a conventional heating system."
The couple chose Expedition Log Homes to produce their log package, which they ordered through Jay Enderson, an authorized independent manufacturer's representative for Expedition in the town of Albert Lea in southern Minnesota. The package included everything from the foundation to the tongue-and-groove knotty pine decking and the shingles on the roof.
From Expedition's different log profiles, Jack and Judy chose half-logs with a 10-inch stack height and 12-inch diameter and full round corners. The large logs give the home an authentic full-log appearance.
To assemble the 5,562 square foot homes, the Keister Builders of Cook, Minnesota. Jack contracted out the electrical and then put in the heating and plumbing systems himself. He and Judy also pitched in by doing a log of the time-consuming grunt work.
One concern of Jack's was humidity and condensation. He installed an air-exchange unit to vent any moisture that builds up in the kitchen and bathrooms and to bring in fresh outside air. "With the houses built as tight as they are," Jack says, "you have to control the moisture to make sure that we don't have too much humidity in the building."
After putting so much care and effort into their home, Jack and Judy were so proud of it that they decided to become associate representatives for Expedition and show their log home to anyone in the northern part of the state. "We thought about this house for so many years," Judy says, "we have to pinch ourselves every time we go home. We truly feel blessed that we've been able to do it and because of that we are sharing it with a lot of people."
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